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Moving matters: How and why physical activity is important during cancer care

Information and advice from BC Cancer Physiotherapist Sarah Buddingh Smith on how and why to keep moving in the midst of COVID-19.
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​Enabling people to be physically active at all stages of their cancer journey can improve both clinical and quality of life outcomes. These benefits include preventing and managing the side effects of treatment, reducing cancer-related fatigue, and preserving cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness during treatment. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, new guidelines around maintaining a physical distance means that public fitness facilities like gyms, recreation centres, and specialty studios are closed. In spite of this, BC Cancer physiotherapist Sarah Buddingh Smith shares how people with cancer can still integrate physical activity into their lives. 

“A lot of people see a physiotherapist because of a specific injury,” says Sarah, “but physiotherapists also provide advice around safe movement when people have chronic health conditions like cancer.”

She notes that many people – both with and without cancer – are hesitant to leave their homes, but encourages safe outdoor movement for both physical and mental wellbeing.

“Find a time of day when there are the fewest people outside and wear a mask,” she says. “Take a small, alcohol-based hand sanitizer outside with you to practice good hand hygiene.” She cautions against becoming too ambitious when integrating fitness into daily routines that may already be disrupted due to COVID-19. “When trying to develop some structure and routine in this new normal, start with small, achievable, realistic movement goals. Choose one place to start –a short walk outside, doing a couple familiar exercises, or following an online video. As you start to move more regularly, you can add in new types of exercise. You don’t need to have a comprehensive movement plan from the beginning - focus on developing a routine and celebrate each time you move.”

May is National Physiotherapy Month and marks the beginning of the BC Cancer Foundation’s Workout to Conquer Cancer, challenging British Columbians to move for 30 minutes each day for a good cause.

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